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Summary: How we handle lifes difficulties determines the type of Christian character we demostrate to others.

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First Baptist Church

August 5, 2001

James 1:1-8, 12

I’m going to start out with a trick question, who wrote the book of

James? I probably made you second guess yourself, but James is

the author. For the next few weeks we are going to dig deep into

this book. James exhorts us to ‘authentic Christians.’ It’s believed

that James is the brother of Jesus. If you recall from the gospels,

nobody in Jesus’ family believed He was the Messiah and they

thought Jesus had lost His mind. Sometime after Jesus’

resurrection, James, his mother, Mary, and possibly other family

members came to believe Jesus was the Messiah. Paul wrote that

Jesus even appeared to James after the resurrection (1 Corinthians

15:7). This was the first New Testament book to be written,

around 48 - 50 A.D. James was stoned to death because of His

faith in the year 62 A.D.

Verse 1 tells us that James wrote this book to the Jewish believers.

Because of persecution, many Jewish people who came to believe

in Jesus as the Messiah had to leave their homes and were

scattered throughout the region. So, James wrote this letter to

teach and encourage these persecuted Christians.

I found the following story on the Internet: someone let their pet

ferret play in a pile of clothes in the laundry basket. The ferret was

having a great time frolicking in the clothes. But things got bad, real

bad, and real fast. One minute he was jumping and playing, the

next second he became part of the laundry.

The mom picked up a wad of clothes, tossed it into the washing

machine, and the ferret was part of that wad. The lid was shut and

all was dark.

Can you imagine what went through the ferrets mind as the water

poured in? When the churning water finally stopped and began to

drain out the ferret must’ve thought he made it . . . then the rinse

cycle began. And just when he thought the worse was over . . . the

spin cycle began.

Later that night, the little ferret was found in the washing machine,

alive, wet and confused. I wonder if that little ferret has ever

played in the laundry basket again?

Can you relate to that ferret? Most of us can. One minute your life

is going great, and like the ferret, you’re singing and thinking it

doesn’t get any better than this.

Then all of the sudden, out of nowhere, your world becomes a

place of spinning darkness. Your boss tells you you’re laid off.

Your spouse tells you, ‘I don’t love you anymore.’ A policeman

comes to your door and asks you to come to the station. The

phone rings and you hear the words "there’s been an accident."

The doctor tells you ‘there’s nothing they can do for you.’ Or your

mother calls and tells you your dad had a heart attack.

You didn’t see it coming, but in the blink of an eye, you find

yourself sucked into the darkness and your world begins to spin

hopelessly out of control. If you haven’t been there, James tells us

someday you will.

I’ve been there. It was June 22, 1990, I was dancing in the

drizzling rain on an island somewhere off the coast of Stockholm,

Sweden. A friend came down to get me to tell me that I had a

phone call. I knew nobody in my family would have known that

phone number and they weren’t calling to say hello. They were

calling to say ‘mom has cancer and is on a respirator and they are

keeping her alive until you come home.’

Think about this past week, Korey Stringer of the Minnesota

Vikings died from heat stroke and a Northwestern University

safety, Rashidi Wallace had an asthma attack and died.

None of these were supposed to happen, but they did and our

world feels like it is spinning out of control. When that happens,

James has challenging words, yet they are words that can bring

comfort.

In verse 2, James tells us "whenever you face trials consider it pure

joy." Notice that James doesn’t say if you face trials, but when you

face trials. Trials, hardships and difficulties are part of life. If you

think your life is going to be smooth and calm, you’re fooling

yourself. Jesus warned His disciples, "in the world you will have

trouble" (John 16:33) and Paul said, "We must go through many

hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

Doesn’t it sound absurd, be joyful when you face trials? Come on.

It sounds good on paper, but not in reality. But, remember,

friends, James is about building character. We know people who

have endured and people who have given up. Those who give up

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